Elite Athlete Overcomes Depression
Most people will have heard of Ian Thorpe, who represented Australia an internationally recognized Olympic swimmer.
Sink or Swim
By age 24 Thorpie had already broken 22 world records in swimming. He was an Aussie Hero, loved and revered by all. You would think someone so young with so much going for him would be on top of everything emotionally. He was the most successful Australian Olympian ever but nobody knew or suspected that under that smile as he accepted his medals was lurking a pain that almost had him take his own life.
Even as a teenager Ian Thorpe had battled mental health issues and was struggling to determine his own sense of worth and identity despite all the accolades and attention he was getting. During his peak time as an elite athlete no one would have guessed that our Thorpie could be dealing with depression. He is right out there in the public eye. He is soaking up the attention and he deserved every bit of it having put in up to 40 hours a week in training but underneath he is dealing with serious mental illness.
Ian Thorpe, our Ian Thorpe, our star our hero was struggling with real issues just like anyone else. Apart from the depression he was struggling to come to terms with and open up about the fact he was gay. It was like it was all too perfect and I would think that alone would make it harder to open up to the world on two fronts, one that he was depressed and two that he was gay. He tried to drown out his inner workings with alcohol and medications and he even contemplated taking his own life.
It just goes to show that just because someone appears to have everything together that they are not desperately trying to cope with the realities of life like anybody else. The fact is it is probably harder for them as they have to keep up this public facade with a whole lot going on deep inside.
Ian Thorpe is not the only public figure or elite athlete to overcome depression and turn his life around. But for the purpose of this post we will focus on Thorpie. Ian Thorpe began his rise to hero status as a young teenager winning schoolboy swimming events. He grew in confidence as a swimmer and also as a speaker as he had several occasions when he had to respond to the recognition as he received trophy upon trophy for his achievements.
Nobody would have guessed that this young rising star could be struggling so much with mental illness.
His depression started during his teenage years but got worse after he retired from swimming competitively and tried to reinvent himself . It was around the same time that he declared that he was gay. His depression got so bad that he was admitted to a rehabilitation clinic to work through the issues he was facing.
Following his recovery and finding his own self awareness Thorpie took up another pursuit. He had to rediscover life for him outside of the pool and so became active in advocating for causes such as mental health, gay rights and indigenous issues.
Thorpie With A New Purpose
Thorpie worked brilliantly on an ABC television program to reduce bullying in schools and to create awareness of the extent of the problem.. The program “bullied” went into several schools where bullying was known to be a problem and with a hidden camera was able to reveal to the world what was happening and how it affected the young people involved. It is bullying in our schools and streets and work places which can trigger depression in the victims. Thorpie no doubt knew that as he possibly faced his own share of bullying as he grew up and struggled with his identifying as gay.
He was able to mask the issues going on his life by being so successful in the pool. He threw himself into training and determined to succeed, to be the best he could be. In his words ” “You choose to be the change in the world that you wish to see.”
Thorpie is now working to help others make changes in the way they do business. He has learned well as an elite athlete that you have to put in the hours, be disciplined and persistent. It was easy and natural for him to translate those same attributes and the mindset of a winner to the business world.
Below is a video interview where Ian shares his struggle with depression and his acknowledgment of being gay
Share Your Story
If you have a story to tell about a personal struggle with depression and you have overcome, then please share it here. You never know who might be helped to deal with and overcome their illness by reading your account. It may even save a life. If you do not wish to be identified just use an alias or initials. We would love to hear your story.
If you know someone who is struggling with depression ad you have found some helpful information in this website then please think about sharing it with them. We can all help each other to make the world a happier place to be.